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MPs and council boss back Hobbit pub's fight to keep its name
A Lord of the Rings themed pub has declared war on the Hollywood movie giant demanding it changes its name.
And the popular Hobbit watering hole has already gathered its very own Fellowship for the legal battle ahead – an impressive alliance of MPs, councillors and campaigners.
All have vowed to fight for the small business in its epic struggle against the American enterprise.
The Daily Echo revealed yesterday that the pub in Bevois Valley Road has been told it will be taken to court if it does not remove all references to the work of English author JRR Tolkien.
Multi-million pound Hollywood organisation the Saul Zaentz Company owns the film rights to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit – and sent the small Southampton business a letter containing a deadline of May to ditch their theme.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy are among the highest grossing films ever made – and the first instalment of a film adaptation of The Hobbit is due out later this year.
Earlier this week, landlady Stella Roberts said she did not see how they would be able to stand up to such a huge international organisation – but yesterday solicitors representing the pub said they were planning to fight.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns, who own the pub, said: “The legal position is we are supporting the pub all the way to preserve the Hobbit.
“We are trying to find a compromise to maintain the name and ethos of the business. I am sure there will be a negotiated settlement.”
More than 5,000 people have now joined an Internet campaign to support the pub in its David and Goliath-style battle to keep the name it has traded under for more than 20 years.
Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead has also condemned the threat of legal action.
He said: “It’s like the story – a small business minding its own business until the forces of darkness envelope it.
“It’s just ridiculous.
“People have named their dogs and pets after these characters – I don’t know if they will be prosecuted as well.
“The answer has to be to fight it.”
He said: “This company is perfectly entitled to pursue this through the courts but frankly it has been The Hobbit for 20 years and it’s not damaging their brand, as far as I can see.
“If anything, I would say The Hobbit pub strengthens their brand rather than weakens it and it’s a shame that they should do this.”
John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, added: “You would have thought that the multi-national movie company had made enough money from The forthcoming Hobbit movie, to leave this well-known and popular pub alone”
National lobby group the Campaign for Real Ale says the legal threats come at a difficult time for a small business.
Spokesman Jon Howard said: “The pub industry has been battered in recent years by rising costs and under-investment.
“As 16 pubs continue to close across Britain every week, the last thing a licensee needs in the current climate is to have to make wholesale changes to their business at great cost.”
The Daily Echo repeatedly tried to contact the Saul Zaentz Company and their representatives, the Edwards Wildman Group, but no one was available to comment.